Consumer Reports finds flaws in TurboChef's celebrated Speedcook oven.
Kim Girard has written about business and technology for more than a decade, as an editor at CNET News.com, senior writer at Business 2.0 magazine and online writer at Red Herring. As a freelancer, she's written for publications including Fast Company, CIO and Berkeley's Haas School of Business. She also assisted Business Week's Peter Burrows with his 2003 book Backfire, which covered the travails of controversial Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. An avid cook, she's blogged about the joy of cheap wine and thinks about food most days in ways some find obsessive.
TurboChef's Speedcook ovenhas grabbed some serious attention over the past year, nabbing Sex and the City co-star Kim Cattrall as its spokes-actress and the support of top chef/kitchen stuff endorsers like Charlie Trotter. Fawning articles in Forbes, the New York Times, and Business Week are piling up faster than the oven can roast a chicken.
And boy, can this oven cook fast--up to 15 times faster than any other conventional oven, finishing a rack of lamb in about the time it takes me to shower. It looks pretty spiffy, too, while dusting the competition. (Take that, slow food cookers!!)
At the 2007 TED conference, clearly impressed New York Times tech columnist David Pogue blogged in awe after he watched a presenter use the oven to fix a rack of soufflés in 90 seconds flat while the "Mission: Impossible" theme played.
Now Consumer Reports is weighing inand the reports are, well, mixed for this double oven model which, at $7,895 is pricier than competing models like the Miele 30-inch MasterChef (about $5,000).
The full review won't be out until CR's upcoming August 2008 issue. In this first look, however, the magazine calls the hot oven "fast but flawed." Reviewers liked that the oven "zipped through frozen hors d'oeuvres in 1 to 2 minutes compared with 15 minutes, a pound of frozen French fries in 4 minutes instead of 25 minutes, and 24 chocolate-chip and butter cookies in 6 minutes."
They also praised the second oven (pictured above) on this model that lets you make dinner and dessert at the same time.
But CR found problems, too, including the Speedcook oven's size (too small) and its cooking controls. "If you're trying to cook something not in the TurboChef's recipe library you're forced to choose a preprogrammed setting for an item similar to what you're cooking," the review says.
Here's the TurboChef spokesman's e-mailed response: The oven can cook anything you can find in your grocery store. It has over 500 preprogrammed cook settings that allow for this. For certain items you'll find more general settings. For instance, I cook a family favorite squash casserole. It cooks up perfectly under a "general casserole" setting.
Consumer Reports also noted that the oven tends to overcook some items and undercook others. "It overcooked drumsticks and wings when we've roasted whole chickens and turkeys. Yet when we've prepared pork tenderloin and roast beef, the oven undercooked the inside while overcooking the outsides."
TurboChef spokesman's response: The oven was designed to give the home cook flexibility with the cook settings. The oven will prompt you 80 percent through the cooking cycle to check the progress of your dish and make the choice to brown less, cook less, do both or continue without change. At 100 percent, you are prompted again to check your food and select (whether to) brown more, cook more, do both, or finish. You can also save those adjustments to your "favorites" if you like, so the next time you cook you get personalized results. (He also recommends that home cooks let meat sit at room temp out of the fridge before cooking and let meat rest after cooking).
The Speedcook oven works using whirling blasts of heated air emitted from the oven's 85 small holes. The air moves at up to 60 mph, heating food inside and out.
Other vendors are speeding up cooking times, too. GE's Advantium microwave (about $1,549), for one, uses its own Speedcook (Hmmmm, did anyone trademark?) technology to roast a whole chicken in 20 minutes.
This leads me to my humble question: to what end?
Speed is good, but I find myself pondering this New York Timesreader's post: "Yeah, cook faster, then eat faster, then you can die quickly and be done with it. Where did all the fun go?"